This weekend I happened to stumble upon an obituary that piqued my interest (I know, a bit morbid, right?,) but I think it was written with the intent of showing how this man left this world… as a legacy.
Not only was he an extremely well-known oral surgeon and philanthropist in Syracuse, but he was a man that began his career out of his passion for helping people. Did I know this man? No. But I do know his son, who followed in his footsteps and became an oral surgeon as well, and let’s just say he’s a complete and refreshing replica of his dad. If his father was anything like him, I know he had the best intentions and the best results from doing what he loved.
But back to the obituary… it was the LONGEST write up I’ve ever seen. It took up two newspaper columns; the text seemed to scroll endlessly. Several paragraphs down, it explained his recipe for success, and the principles he lived by, appropriately named “The 3 As.” It read (I’ve renamed him “Dr. A”, being overly cautious):
“Dr. A taught others through story and experience. He treasured the moments he could help someone and often shared his own formula for success–the 3 A’s: In order to be successful you were to desire and practice to have Ability, be Available to do the hard work and to help others and most importantly be Affable…be likeable, be kind.”
As soon as I read this I thought to myself, “What an amazing thing to put in an obituary.” I mean, typically it’s the usual statistics, symbolizing the culmination of someone’s life here on Earth, however long or short it may have been. But never have I seen someone live so strongly by a certain set of values that it makes his/her obituary! It reminds me of one of the questions after a chapter in “48 Days to the Work You Love”: “What would you want your epitaph to read?”
So let’s reflect on Dr. A’s words for a bit in terms of your career path. Ability makes complete sense. You obviously have to be able to do the work in order to perform well and to feel a sense of purpose. In my mind, everyone has the ability to do whatever they put their mind to. Sure, some things may come easier than others, but you need to be willing to learn new things and be the best you can possibly be at the task at hand. The ability to grow and learn is much more important than anything else.
Available… now there’s one that some people have trouble with. It’s SO difficult to balance life these days. Family, work, friends, church, extra-curricular activities… the list goes on and on. But are you available (physically, mentally and emotionally) to make a change in your life when it comes to dedicating yourself to and doing something you truly love? If not, make this a priority. And just as it’s put above, you need to have time to help others. The personal gratification from this is so astounding– that alone will get you motivated, if nothing else will.
And affable– kind of a funny word, huh? Being likeable and getting along with the people around you is SO key. Of course you’re always going to have the few people that drive you nuts (especially on a day where you’ve already spilled your coffee, forgot your lunch in the fridge, and your gas light goes on all before 8 a.m.) But people are everywhere. And then come in not only all shapes and sizes, but personalities. To help myself out with this, I always try to tell myself that I never know what kind of a day a person is having; I never know if they just received devastating news or are going through a tough time. So yes, Dr. A., you’re right– we need to remember the old addage, “Treat others as you would like to be treated,” or in your words, be affable.
Thank you, Dr. A. for sending such a refreshing message. Not only did you make people’s smiles brighter through your work, but also through your words. I’m sure you didn’t expect someone to write about your obituary in a blog, but it did exactly what you wanted it to do… helped your “3 As” principle live on.